Are your online learners ready?

As an industry, we are concerned with student readiness. We measure readiness and speak about readiness most often in terms of reading, writing, and math. We build programs around this to help these underprepared students become ready for college-level work. Often this takes the form of remedial or developmental coursework, sometimes it is done with corequisite support courses for students not quite ready for college-level courses, and sometimes…well, there are a number of approaches.

A facet of readiness that is not often measured is online readiness. Are your students ready to be successful in the online learning environment? Do they have the cognitive skills? The technological skills? What about non-cognitive factors like initiative, confidence, independence, and adaptability? What impact is online readiness having on your student learning outcomes data? What about your student achievement results? The online learning environment is very attractive to students, particularly those with competing priorities such as children, aging parents, and inflexible jobs. I suspect that readiness to learn online follows similar demographic patterns as we see in reading, writing, and math. This introduces a layer of diversity, equity, and inclusion to the discussion.

Of course, discussions about DEI have become particularly heated of late. Regardless of the political opinion of DEI in your neighborhood, the mission of the institution remains the same. Develop an understanding of where your students are and help them develop knowledge and skills so they can accomplish their goals. Many of the institutional accreditors (formerly the regional accreditors) have specific DEI standards. Here is a recent article from The Chronicle about the standards. Additionally, SACSCOC has a DEI-focused proposed change (among many others) to the Principles of Accreditation that will be voted on in December 2023. How interesting would it be to include a measure of, and targeted interventions for, online readiness? How much more robust is your case for compliance with DEI standards and with student support standards to include this in the mix? I would love the opportunity to be part of telling that story.

So, how can we do that? I recently collaborated with SmarterServices in a webinar that was, in part, focused on the intersection between accreditation and online learner readiness. As a consultant I rarely pitch a specific product, but if you are interested in exploring a measure of online readiness the SmarterMeasure tool is worth a look.

At Southeastern Accreditation Consultants, we’re ready to collaborate and support your accreditation and strategic planning efforts. We bring best practices, proven strategies, experienced narrative review to the table and we offer individualized services to best meet your needs. Contact us to get started.

Published by Douglas A. Wymer

Throughout an academic career spanning nearly 20 years, Dr. Wymer participated in many site visits (both substantive change and reaffirmation visits) for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and he has been a visiting team member for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges with the Western Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition to serving as a team member, Dr. Wymer has served as a visiting committee chair for SACSCOC. After earning a B.S. in Biology (with a minor in Chemistry) from what was then Shorter College, an M.S. in Entomology from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Tennessee Technological University, Dr. Wymer started a rewarding career in academia. He earned tenure and achieved the rank of Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences at The University of West Alabama and served in a number of administrative roles at UWA including Department Chair and Assistant Dean. He served as a Department Head at Pensacola State College and, after a year in that position, was promoted to Dean of Baccalaureate Studies and Academic Support. In 2016 he became the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Lake-Sumter State College, where he served for four years before launching Southeastern Accreditation Consultants.

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